Elster's World

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Passion of the ....Fanatic

Lost in the continuing worries over Israel, the Mets smackdown on the Braves, fears over a bad Omar Minaya trade before the deadline and the opening of New York Jets training camp this weekend was the arrest of Jew hater Mel Gibson this week near Malibu, California.

The Deranged One was allegedly drunk and spouting off virulent anti-Semitic comments to the police officers, even asking one of them if he was Jewish and then stating that the Jews are the cause of all the world's wars (I'm paraphrasing here).

The mask of normalcy that Mr. Gibson wore for so many years and so many of my favorite movies (Mad Max, The Road Warrior, Lethal Weapon) has slipped completely off, revealing another Jew hating monster underneath. Does Mr. Gibson don the white sheets of the Ku Klux Klan in the privacy of his home? Does he bookmark his favorite sections of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? Is he no more than just a more successful version of his insane father, a known anti-Semitic and Holocaust denier?

And how long does Gibson continue to get a free pass for his actions simply because he is famous? Actually don't answer this one. The answer is forever. He was pretty much a full-fledged raving lunatic when The Passion was released (see a brilliant parody of his insanity on the South Park episode spoofing The Passion), yet for some reason, his version of the death of Jesus Christ has become the gospel (pun intended).

This is the joke of our society, which puts a premium on the words of morons like Gibson and Tom Cruise despite their own babbling insanity - allowing them to spout off about whatever they please (in Gibson's case, maniacal ramblings about the Jews) without any fear of repercussions. Then throw in the Jason Giambi-type apology - I'm sorry for what I said but I'm not saying what I said - and it really is head scratching how he is allowed to get away with this stuff.

To say that my family won't be spending any money to see this lunatics movies anymore is an understatement. As I mentioned in a comment on Joe's site earlier today - I hope Mel Gibson gets a one way ticket to burning in Hell.

And I'm pretty sure that he will.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Storytellers Part Deux

Jack is victim number two, taking Storytellers someplace entirely different than Scraps did in the inaugural post. Check it out here.

Sara, you are on the clock.

Friday, July 28, 2006

This Post Is Not About Israel

While rockets fall all over Northern Israel, while the injuries pile up, while Hezbollah seems to have a slightly longer range missile in its arsenal which hit a town south of Haifa, while all this takes place, I just can’t blog about it anymore. I am sure I have more words to say, but I just can’t say them now. So, while my thoughts and prayers turn constantly towards Eretz Yisrael and to the thousands of soldiers in Southern Lebanon and the tens of thousands in harm’s way in Northern Israel, my words will turn elsewhere. As Jack said recently, our lives need to go on too

- Just days after one of the most dramatic and emotionally rousing victories in Tour de France (in fact arguably the most dramatic) -all while riding on a painfully degenerating hip that will be replaced in the near future - American cyclist Floyd Landis is embroiled in a doping scandal. After testing positive for elevated levels of Testosterone in his urine after he won Stage 17 (where he made up more than six minutes of the time lost the day before), Landis may be stripped of his Tour win.

To say that this is shocking is an understatement of gigantic proportions. In our times, the question should no longer be who is cheating, but who isn’t. Despite Charles Barkley’s protestations to the opposite effect, whether they like it or not, sports (and other public) figures are indeed role models. People do look at their actions with more scrutiny than perhaps they should. Scratch the perhaps. People look up to athletes, rightly or wrongly, and recently they have been letting us down every time. From Bonds to Big Mac to Jason Giambi, baseball’s steroids scandal seems bottomless. The list of football players involved in off the field “incidents” is staggering. Basketball? Forget about it. The next time I see a story about a player caught with a “friend’s” gun or dope in his car, I’m going to run into traffic.

Yet we keep coming back for more punishment, time and time again. And why? Because we are desperate for heroes. Landis’ story was an amazing one. The strict Mennonite family upbringing, the degenerating hip, the eight minutes lost and the amazing comeback, capped off by the time trial success he all but guaranteed earlier in the race. And then boom, the doping hammer falls.

Now Landis denies he cheated. He profusely maintains his innocence. And yes, I want to believe him. I want Landis to actually be the hero I thought he was. Call me a sucker, but his story is just too good to be tainted by a scandal.

Though his reputation may never be the same, the doping cloud follows cyclists forever (just ask Lance Armstrong, an absolute villain outside of America), I want the B sample test to come up negative or to otherwise exonerate him. Though once the allegation exists, time may never tell us the true story.

- In other news, the Mets play a Ha-yuuuge series against the Braves in Atlanta this weekend. The Braves have been making serious noise recently and this is a great opportunity for the Mets to lay the smack down and show Atlanta that the race for the NL East is effectively over.

On a positive note for the Mets, Pedro Martinez returns to pitch for the first time in a month, returning from a hip injury and some seriously bad Dominican chicken. The hope here is that the hip is good and Pedro can drive off the mound again, something he struggled to do in the four (or so) starts he made after hurting the hip to begin with. If the Mets take two of three from Atlanta, it will be a crushing blow. Taking one of three would be very bad, especially with a healthy Pedro back. Getting swept would be a disaster.

I have no feeling yet which way this goes. I’ll probably know more when I pick up the newspaper tomorrow morning and see how they did in game one.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Some Ramblings

There’s a lot to talk about today and I’ll try and do it in the order of importance.

- The battle for the key Hezbollah stronghold of Bint Jbail in Southern Lebanon is responsible for the death of at least nine Israeli soldiers today. Despite the fact that Israel has been forced into a land war, it is still jarring (if not unexpected) and extremely saddening to hear the news of the death of Jews. Clearly Israel has somewhat underestimated the will of the Hezbollah terrorists, which is, quite frankly, surprising. Why would anyone have assumed that people who are willing to strap explosives to themselves and blow themselves up in crowds of innocent people would simply give up arms when the bombs started falling? Israel is going to have to pound them to death and that is why battles like Bint jbail are so important. You cannot break the spirit of radicals, you have to uproot them.

- The death of the UN observers in Lebanon is tragic and sad. But it begs the question. Why have these people there in the first place? What, exactly, are the observing? It’s a war. And the fact that Israel hater Kofi Anan would publicly state “outrage” for Israel’s intentionally targeting the UN post is ludicrous. Why, when Israel is finally holding an almost universally accepted “in the right” position would they do something to upset the apple cart? The whole thing is ridiculous. There should not be UN civilians in a war zone and there should only be sadness and regret, not baseless accusations.

- The Nine Days has just begun and already I miss meat. I’m so sad.

- I’m officially concerned about the Mets. The starting pitching situation is approaching danger zone. Tom Glavine has been terrible for about a month, Steve trachsel, despite a 9-5 record, has been painful all season, El Duque is on-off-off-on, not good enough, and thus there is way too much reliance being put on rookies John Maine and Mike Pelfrey. The good news is, the Mets have an 11.5 game cushion in the East right now and they have Pedro coming back Friday night to open against (and hopefully shut down) the Braves. But, as constructed the Mets don’t have enough pitching to win the world series and in fact, you could see them losing to a team like the Cardinals in the playoffs.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Start Telling a Story

Ah, the maiden voyage of Storytellers. The very first post, penned by Scraps, is officially up. Please feel free to skip the legal mumbo-jumbo which precedes it.

I am thinking that posts will stay up about a week or so, though I'm open to suggestions on timing and just about everything else. Writers, please feel free to advertise Storytellers on your own blogs to ensure maximum readership for the brave souls who submit here.

Oh, and Jack, you are up.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Monday Monday

Quick Thoughts for a Monday afternoon:

- I went to a rally for Israel in my neighborhood last night, taking my 5 and a half year old daughter. While she was unimpressed, it has been very nice to see that the people of America have been taking the is conflict very seriously. There have been rallies all over the country (see Jameel for up to the minute news and info) and I for one am very heartened that this isn’t another example of how Diaspora Jews are too jaded to care. The crowd was not huge, but it was nice sized and people were still streaming in as we left to go “shluffy”.

- Response to Storytellers has been better than expected. Nine (that’s right, nine!) positive responses so far include recently thought to be retired McAryeh, who sent me an “I’m in” email this morning. I’m positively tickled that he’s joining the crew.

As I mentioned (a million times), this is open to anyone who wants to try their hand at fiction. I have filled the first four slots (Scraps, Jack, Sara then me) and after that it’s first come-first served. Just email it in (links to the right) and I’ll get it posted for you. I am hoping that many people take this opportunity to try something new. And again, don’t worry about sucking and the ridicule from your friends that could follow – I’m allowing anonymous submissions.

- I’m off to Shea tonight to see the Mets and Cubs play. I’m hoping being forced to sit through three hours of Steve (the Human Rain Delay) Trachsel will be offset by seeing the great Greg Maddux pitch for the Cubbies.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Friday House Cleaning

End of the week cleanup:

- I am very encouraged by the (so far very) positive response to Storytellers - (Link to right). Thanks to all of you who have responded either in the affirmative or in the “maybe, sounds like a great idea” camp. So far, no one (who I have solicited directly) has said no.

Leading off for Storytellers will be my onetime accomplice over at Travel Mates Scraps. She should be getting something to me in about a week. Sara has volunteered to go third. If anyone wants that number 2 slot, let me know. If not, I’ll take it. UPDATE: I have offered spot number 2 to someone so it may be taken.

In the meantime, I will probably put up an initial post on Storytellers with some legal mumbo jumbo about the management (read, me) not being responsible for people copying what you put up there.

- Quote of the Day:

“We are a terrifically forgiving country, in part because we have such a low standard of morality.” – Faye Vincent, former commissioner of Baseball, responding to a question from the New York Times as to whether the public would have forgiven Barry Bonds had he admitted to using steroids back in 2003.

Forget the context and focus on the line. How sad is that? How sad, but how sadly true? We have witnessed (what I believe to be, anyway) an unprecedented decline in morality in the last forty or so years; both here in the United States and abroad. You can see it in the modes of dress, in the way people talk and act, in the sins that people openly commit. I have no plans on jumping on a soapbox, but the quote really struck me.

- Speaking of unprecedented, I am finishing off an unprecedented two-week run at work where I have done virtually nothing. It’s been great.

Perhaps more later, I’m not sure.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Storytellers Update

I am pleased to say that less than 24 hours after the original post went up, I have three commitments to Storytellers and another 2 very strong maybes (all not including me - for the sake of pumping up the numbers, I will count myself as both an "In" and a "Maybe" - taking us to 4 In and 3 Maybe).

People have inquired about the requirements and guidelines for the submissions. As I said, there are none. Well, there is one. It needs to be a fiction piece. You decide if you want it to be a short story, a fake article or even a snippet of a larger story. As long as you put some effort into, it doesn't matter what you submit. The editors are very easy.

I hope to start the ball rolling myself in a week or so, then post blogger submissions about a week apart or as they come in.

Again, don't be shy. You can even request an anonymous submission if you'd like. This is a great chance for you bloggers to try your hand at another form of your craft.

Submission email and a link to the Storytellers blog are to the right.

Thanks again.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

From the Travel Mates Ashes... A Phoenix?

Absolutely no qualms about burying that morbidly depressing post I just wrote with a new one.

Dear Readers:

Elster’s World has some good news and some bad news – bad news first, of course.

The Bad News:

I regretfully inform you all that Travel Mates is officially on hiatus, perhaps even permanently so. The truth is that I don’t think anyone cares anymore, except maybe Scraps and I.

This project was born out of a strong desire on my part to collaborate with the brilliant Tomboy, author of Traditional Tomfoolery. Scraps came into the project through Tomboy and while she may still be game to continue without Tommy, the truth is (no offense at all to Scraps) I really wanted to collaborate with Tommy.

The sad thing is, Tom seems to have fallen off the face of the planet. She has not updated her own blog since June 5. She does not respond to emails and she has not logged onto her messenger for that same period of time. As upset as I am that Travel Mates is most probably done, I have more of a sense of worry over her whereabouts. Sure, people get busy and periods of time go by without a post or what not. But a month and a half is a long time to be totally out of contact. Unless you are a spy, deep undercover. So as I “mourn” Travel Mates, my real hope is that Tommy is ok.

The Big News:

But out of the death of Mates, perhaps another project can be born. Therefore, I proudly announce that Elster’s World would love to host the first edition of Elster’s Storytellers.

What, you ask, is Elster’s Storytellers? Well it’s an opportunity for all of you serious blog writers out there to show off your other, deeply hidden side - the fiction writing beast that lurks in all of us scribes. Perhaps you always wanted to try a short story, or even a story fragment, but were afraid to take away from the seriousness of your blog. Well I’m here to help. I want to put your fiction here at Elster’s World (or, if there is actually a real response to this, on its very own blog site). You can submit with your name (which I will proudly display) or you can submit anonymously (to protect your serious side). Either way, I’d love to have you here.

Feel free to respond in the comment section or email me at the link in my profile. All submissions will be accepted and, unless graphically inappropriate, will be posted as written (though as editor I do reserve the right to make spelling and grammar fixes).

I have serious doubts about getting responses but I really hope you J-Bloggers (and non J-Bloggers too of course) take me up on this opportunity to have a little fun and try to get creative.

I hope to hear from many of you soon.

E.

Summer (??) Malaise

As we get closer to summer’s dog days, I find myself stuck in a rut. I am unable (or unwilling) to do anything at work - I sort of just exist there all day long and wait until an acceptable hour to pick up my bag and leave. Once home, dinner and inertia remain the highlights of the nighttime hours.

Why this state of being? Well, it would be easy to blame it on the sapping summer heat, but I spend the majority of my time in super cooled air. It would be easy to blame the Java Island earthquake/tsunami that killed over 500 people, the endless conflicts n Iraq and Afghanistan or any of a dozen other world issues that pockmark the newspapers and .coms. But the truth is, while I care about these issues and want the world to be a better place for all to live in, these events simply do not have the power to affect my mood to that degree.

The conflict in the Middle East is certainly a big factor for my malaise. I think every Jewish person, regardless of where on the political spectrum you may fall (and obviously excluding fringe psychopaths who desire the destruction of the Jewish State) feel a sense of sadness and helplessness from the hundreds of Hezbollah rockets striking Northern cities and towns like Haifa, Afula, Sefat and Tiberias. We cannot but feel a tension in our guts as we anxiously read stories of soldier incursions into southern Lebanon to dismantle Hezbollah terrorist outposts.

Yes, the situation in Israel has certainly affected me on a level that I have not felt in a while. There is a certain pride in the Israeli government’s response. Too often they sat on their hands in the name of “peace” as busses blew and markets or hotels were reduced to shrapneled rubble (and yes, I know that shrapneled is not a real word). For the last week, Israel has responded with the heavy hand. Perhaps it has learned that with its Islamic neighbors, the soft sell simply doesn’t work. They are telling the world that cross border incursions to kill and kidnap Israelis will not be tolerated. They are telling the world that firing rockets at civilian populated areas will be met by enough force to discourage such activity from continuing. They are telling the world that while you pussyfoot around with known terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, we, Israel, will stand up defiantly to them, whether on its own or with the backing of the world. Yet along with this pride comes the tension, sadness and fear.

So in part, my lack of energy can be traced back to this conflict. But only partially so. The truth is, I’m a little upset with my own lack of aggression in trying to better my work situation. Sure, I interview when a good opportunity comes along, but the fact remains that I have been working as an attorney for seven years knowing that this is not how I want to be spending my time and energy – and, most importantly, my life. Yet, here I am, seven years later, still doing the same thing, making the same complaints and generally not moving in a direction that is at all beneficial to improving that situation. That’s the rut. That’s the spiral. It’s circular. I’m unhappy because I dislike what I do, I can’t figure out how to fix it, I’m too unhappy to have energy to fix it, so I’m unhappy.

Generally I get three responses to my feelings.

1.-Well, you need to earn a living for your family to just suck it up.
2.-Suggestionless sympathy.
3. – Stop whining. Most people hate their jobs, so no one cares that you do.

All three of these responses are valid (though obviously not helpful). What can I say. I realize my predicament, I’m not blind to it. I just fail to see how I am supposed to fix it. How can I suddenly leave my well paying career for something I like better, while still making enough to pay for all the things an orthodox Jewish homeowner with tuition-aged children needs to be paying for?

I hope that one day (very soon) I’ll figure it out. Because this state of melancholy is certainly not where I want to be.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Israel Blogdates

For those of you looking for up to the minute reports of the situation in Israel - with a little sense of (gallows) humor thrown in - I direct you to Jameel at the Muquata. He certainly gives a different slant than you might find on CNN.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Like Alice from the Brady Bunch

Or, in a word, housekeeping.

- I really have nothing to add on the conflict between Israel and Lebanon/Gaza. My latest post (see below, I’m not linking that – don’t be so lazy) incited a near anti-Elster riot by Joe and a war of words that followed it. At the end, though, my post was written as a gut-wrench reaction and was poorly thought out. It’s never that simple. This is not a war about the return of the kidnapped soldiers, it never was. It is a war to protect the citizens of Israel from the constant threat of rockets pouring in from Lebanon. It is a war to disarm Hezbollah in Lebanon and to weaken Hamas in Gaza.

These are noble goals. Weakening terrorist groups is always something worth supporting, even if the G8 leaders , European Union and United Nations see it otherwise. I applaud both President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair for not taking the more politically correct position of condemning the breadth of the Israeli attacks and instead recognizing Israel’s right to defend it’s borders and citizens from terrorists and kidnappers. And staunchly pro-Israel defenders have to understand that of course they must call on Israel to try and keep civilian casualties or collateral damage to a minimum. Those are just words, not the message. So yes, I have nothing more to add.

- I debated whether or not I should be writing anything else (read: sports/fiction/Elster’s usual stupidity) during the war in the Middle East but I realized that while my thoughts and prayers are constantly with Israel, the world around me continues to spin. Becoming obsessive about the situation won’t help or improve it either. So if you have no interest in trivialities, stop reading right now.

- So it’s terribly hot outside. We are approaching Billy Wagner fastball temperatures (96-98) out there with another day of this scheduled for tomorrow. On the train this morning, my mind went back to the events of the great blackout of ’04. I decided that this time (assuming there is another blackout/another reason to hightail it out of the City) I won’t mess around. I will grab as much water as I can haul comfortably in my sling pack and make for the 59th Street Bridge and the (relative) safety of Queens. But I digress. My point really is, when it’s this hot outside, I would much rather be sitting poolside with an iced beverage in my hand than in my office wondering how the weather will be affecting my commute home. But that’s just me.

- Watching the Mets pour it on the Cubs in the 6th inning last night, some thoughts:

* This would be a great time for Cliff Floyd to get hot.
* This team desperately needs another front line starter. The Mets will be keeping a very close eye on Mike Pelfrey when he gets up on the mound tomorrow night to see if they have a potential fifth (or better) starter on their hands. In the weak and sad National League this season, the Mets should be able to continue to run away from the rest of the league with a 75% effective Pedro, a suddenly mortal looking Glavine (who is really starting to worry me) and whoever else they throw out there. The emergence of Pelfrey could be the biggest story to keep your eye on for the rest of the season. That and the collective health of the players (especially Pedro Martinez).

- I am currently suffering through an unprecedented lack of ideas for writing. I recently wrote a post regarding my fears of suffering writer’s block. I don’t think I have writer’s block, I just don’t have the energy to even think about writing. It’s a combination of summer heat, inertia and, well, writer’s block. I do believe, however, that if I can focus myself on a project, I will be able to snap out of this funk quickly. The problem is focusing on a project.

So the house has been cleaned. Stay tuned for more.

Friday, July 14, 2006

It's Simple, Stupid

CNN.com is reporting that Lebanon's prime minister is calling for a cease fire and increasing US pressure to halt the Israeli attacks in Lebanon.

I agree, this should happen. And here's the proper response to his pleas. As soon as you get the two kidnapped soldiers back to us, we will stop bombing the living crap (not the word I wanted to use, believe me) out of you.

See, it's simple, stupid.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

17 Tammuz

As I sat in shul this morning, I contemplated on 17 Tammuz and what it means to me. Generally, not so much. It is the start of the “Three Weeks”, a forewarning to the “Nine Days” – for most of us buzz words that denote that annoying part of the summer when we can’t get haircuts, eat meat, go to movies or listen to music (to name a few). The Selichos we daven this morning list many of the tragic events which occurred to the Jewish people on 17 Tammuz. This list is quite long, though the most famous tragedy associated with this day was the breaching of the walls of the city of Jerusalem – the first step in the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.

Yet it is so much easier to dredge up the feelings of sadness on Tisha B’av then it is on 17 Tammuz. The feelings simply aren’t as readily available on 17 Tammuz as they are on Tisha B’av, unquestionably, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.

But this year, it has been a little easier to suffer the sadness. While I was sitting in shul, I realized that Israeli soldiers were in the process of fighting a two-front war in Gaza and Lebanon. That soldiers much younger than me had been killed by Hezbollah. That kidnapped soldiers were being held as trade bait by killers and terrorists. And rockets were falling over beloved Tsfat as well. And threats were made of bombings of Chaifah. All of a sudden, perspective was easy.

The events unfolding in Israel have a different feel to them this time. This isn’t some incursion into an occupied territory in the West Bank. Israel has entered into another country to retaliate for what it feels was an act of war against it. Read that again – an act of war. War. The very word makes me shiver. I enjoy the concept much more on the silver screen than I do in connection with our homeland.

So what happens next? Does Israel inflict some heavy damage and pull out of Lebanon? Will troops once again be permanently staged in a buffer zone? Worse, does Syria and other Arab nations decide that the time is ripe and enter the fray? Will this “little” war develop into something else entirely?

Of course, I have no answers to these questions. I’m just walking around with a slightly better perspective today than I normally carry with me. My prayers meant a little more this morning and all of my kavanah was centered on the troops and people of Israel. As reports filter in that Israel is intensifying their attacks in Lebanon I am left hoping that the resolutions to this conflict will be swift and successful. I will fast today not only to commemorate the first steps in the destruction of the temple, but also to offer my meaningless prayers that Israel of today will not suffer the same fate of our ancestors.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What's Really Important

Our thoughts and hearts, and most especially our prayers, should be with the Israeli Armed Forces today (and for that matter every day) as they begin a raid on Hezbollah forces in Lebanon. The kidnapping and murder of Israeli troops on the border is an act of war by Lebano and let us hope a quick retaliatory strike can save the lives of the kidnapped soldiers and future Israeli lives as well.

Not very eloquent, I know.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Clarifications

- Scrolling down Elster's World (excluding sports posts of course) one would get the impression that these are sad times for Elster. For the most part, the post content has been more depressing than uplifting.

Well I am here to set the record straight. Elster is in a relatively good place right now (and talking about himself in third person for extra reading pleasure) and things are pretty good. I have my ear to the ground for better job opportunities, I am trying to think of ways to get myself published on a smaller scale so that I can get published on a larger scale (incidentally, if anyone can think of a good fiction or features magazine that might be right for me, let me know) and things are going well at home (well, little baby Elster III could be sleeping a little better but she's only 5 plus weeks old so we'll cut her some slack). So much like those bands that write really depressing songs and then laugh all the way to the bank, Elster's World is a happy world right now. Content depression has more to do with the sad state of the world than the state of Elster's head.

- On the advice of one of my "loyal" readers, I spoke to the local rabbi about the people on my block. Luckily, he was already aware of the situation and was in the early stages of trying to get involved. I am happy that I (admittedly after being pushed) took a (hopefully) positive step, instead of being one of the cluckers and tiskers on the street corner.

- I am extremely glad David Wright failed to win the Home Run Derby at the All-Star festivities last night. We are all well aware of the Home Run Derby jinx. Isn't the Elster Jinx enough for the Mets? Do they really need their most consistent player jinxed as well?

- Finally, I wanted to say that Elster's World will eventually be getting its facelift. My blog whiz Sara is busy with summertime responsibilities and cannot devote the time to it now. There's no hurry. I'm really starting to like my blog more and more and I feel like I am finding my voice here (if not my target audience). And then one day you will sign on and BOOM, a whole new site with cool banners and pictures and even some links! What a surprise it will be for all of you, I'm sure.

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Battle With No Winners

Why do they stay together when they so truly and clearly hate each other? Why subject someone (who at one point in time you loved enough to marry) to so much tangible hatred and pain? How does a marriage disintegrate into an endless cycle of screaming, leaving and a tangled web of half -truths and lies?

Stay for the kids? Not in this case. The kids, the only true victims in this horrible war of attrition, have no chance. Their lives have been ruined before they are even old enough to understand the destruction wrought upon then by those who are supposed the cherish them above even themselves. The eldest boy (around 5) is already such a problem that he has become that kid the other parents in school request be in the other class. The twins are too young yet to know that their lives are already shattered beyond repair. And inside the womb of a willing participant in this war lies an unborn, unwilling participant – one whose pre-determined future is akin to a nuclear wasteland.

The ingredients to this disaster are so pathetically obvious. She is so unstable there is no need to have any advanced degrees in psychology to see it. Her actions, mannerisms, the way she talks. What she says. Should she have been bringing children into the world to begin with? And now she is saddled with them because he’s never home. He’s got the job, the side career as a performer, the never ending list of “things” he needs to attend to. She will tell anyone who will listen that he’s cheating on her. And you know what? He probably is. He’s gone every night. His car is out of his driveway two minutes after Shabbos is over every Saturday night. He is one of the strangest people one will ever come across – his long payos conflicting with both his behavior and his dress code.

She tells anyone who will listen that he beats her. Does he? This is less clear to me. But he walks around and pretends there is nothing wrong - that the only issue in his otherwise perfect world is that his wife is crazy - which everyone knows to be true anyway.

Then there are the endless house calls from the local police. She says that he’s calling the cops to build up the “file” against her for when he decides to divorce her. He smiles and tells you that his silly son accidentally dialed 911 on the speed dial. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Does he really think we are that stupid?

Sunday morning in July, the air is clear and warm. The birds are singing the same chorus as they do on Floyd’s Cirrus Minor intro. But the peace and goodwill are shattered by her screeching at him to get out, to just go. This followed the Friday night outburst as she fled the house with the children, crying and screaming.

They are Shabbos afternoon gossip fodder, whispered and mumbled “did you see the cops were there again on Wednesday?” The most helpful neighbors tend to be the nosiest, the ones who want her to dish the dirt on what he’s doing, on the affair he’s having. That the “other woman” might be pregnant. They pooh pooh and make all the right sympathetic cluckings and tiskings, but they are lapping it up like parched desert travelers at a way station well – and then spreading it down the block in a true life game of telephone.

The truth is, it is easier not to be involved. As much as you want to be there and to help, they have to want the help too. He is pretending everything is a-ok thank you very much and she simply will not leave him despite everyone’s advice.

And she won’t leave him, that has become clear. She’s got three kids, one on the way and seemingly he doesn’t make enough to cover alimony. And besides, she’s as unstable as he is. Her family is insane too. So is his. It a multi generational mess. Where, then would she go anyway?

To me it’s so obvious. How could they not be happier apart than together? How can the current situation ever be considered an enviable alternative? There are plenty of good places and programs for families like this (OHEL anyone?). Yet the song and dance continues.

Aye, but here’s the rub. The deterioration of the status quo is obvious. The public screaming matches are worse. The charges against each other growing. The police involvement, his zany parents dragging themselves into the fray every weekend. Something simply has to give.

As it all hurtles to its surely horrible conclusion, there is only one clear truth – This is a battle which has no winners.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Life Sized Spam Filter

A woman from my office quit today. She had been talking about this for some time, but she finally worked up the nut to actually go through with it. She walked into the partner's office and gave notice through the end of the month.

Here's the funny thing. This woman was going to make partner in the firm this year. It was almost a slam dunk. Partnership is supposedly every attorney's end game. A bite from the apple. More security, eventually more money. Real respect. The end game.

Yet, she decided she'd rather walk away. To do what? She isn't sure yet. Maybe she'll open a retail location like a toy store or a clothes shop. She has no idea. She only knew that she had burned out and it was time to go.

Believe it or not, this is not about to turn into a rant about how much I hate my job and would quit in a second but for my monetary considerations. I'm sure you are all relieved. Everyone knows this already anyway. So what is this post about? Simply put what lessons can we all take from this person's decision to walk away?

Life is hectic to the point of ridiculous. Sara mentioned to me that often life is frenetic to the point of being senseless. And that's the trick. To get life to slow down enough for you to make sense of it all. Great basketball players are often described as possession the ability to have the game "slow down" - to the point that they can "see" events unfolding almost in slow motion - and allowing them to make the plays that others cannot. Real world issues operate the same way. The world is so crazy, that even when good things are happening to us we often lack the ability to actually enjoy them. Too many things circle around us at all times -almost like vultures over a fresh kill - keeping us from focusing on what we need to be focusing on.

Life is the ultimate spammer. Its endless energy is reminiscent of a New York City rush hour. It's simply flying at you at speeds that your brain cannot process effectively. It's throwing things at you all day long. You attempt to categorize important and not important, but it's easy to lose the forest in the trees. So when your sitting at your son's bar mitzvah, you are worried about the big deal you are closing next week. When you should be helping pick flowers for your daughter's wedding, instead you are worrying about some other of life's great trivialities.

Unfiltered lifespam is what causes people to be unable to appreciate even the great moments in their lives. For me, lifespam takes the form of job hating. For some, it's school worries. For others, its relationship issues. And hell, I'm the first person who needs a lifespam filter. I have major difficulty separating the forest and the trees. I get sucked into the great unfiltered jumble as badly as anyone. Worse than most, I'd even say.

And that's one of the reasons people often look back at their lives with regret. It's not always about the failed chances or the chances never taken, sometimes it's simply the failure to even enjoy what you had - to ever sit back with those roses and actually smell the damn things. To take a moment to push aside the lifespam and take in the moment.

And that's why I have great envy for those with the spam filters built in. You people (I say derisively) don't know how good you have it.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Rating the Boys of Summer

Before we begin my midseason review of the New York Mets 2006 season, let me first take a moment to acknowledge one of the greatest achievements in sports history, which took place today in Coney Island, New York. On this great Independence Day, Japanese eating legend Takeru Kobayashi at 53 and ¾ hot dogs in 12 minutes to win the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest for the sixth straight time, shattering his own world record set in 2004 (53 and ½ dogs). Think about that number. We may never see an athlete like Kobayashi again. The dude weighs 160 pounds. It’s utterly amazing. So as this Fourth of July comes to a close, I say hats off to you Takeru Kobayashi, we salute your eating greatness.

On a much more serious note, the first half of the 2006 season has been a magic ride for the Mets (49-34). The Mets sit 10.5 games up on the Philadelphia Phillies and 12.5 up on the Braves as the All-Star break looms. Despite a recent 2-6 struggle (including an ugly blowout against the Pirates on Monday night), you get the feeling that going .500 will get the Mets their first NL East title in more years than this author cares to count (or research for that matter). The offense has been explosive, the defense solid and the pitching better than expected, leaving the Mets a staggering 15 games over .500 with more than half the season in the bag. Absolutely incredible.

Since the team is playing so well (and I have not written a substantial pro-Mets article since Joe slapped the Elster Jinx on us all), I figured now would be the perfect time to break out the Midseason Team Ratings (Note: All statistics are from ESPN.com and all ratings are based upon my very own subjective formula which I will not divulge – but trust me it’s very complicated).

Catcher – Paul Lo Duca/Ramon Castro – Lo Duca gets the bulk of the work after coming over in an off season trade with the Florida Marlins. He responded by handling the pitching staff beautifully and providing the perfect stick as a number 2 hitter. The result – he’s your NL All-Star team’s starting catcher. His .292 batting average and 25 rbi are not eye popping but he has only struck out 16 times in 264 official plate appearances. That’s amazing. He makes contact and moves Jose Reyes into scoring position. As a catcher, his staff is totally in synch with him. See how many times a game a pitcher shakes him off. Almost never. That’s impressive. They trust him to call the right pitch. Castro provides a very adequate backup. Grade: A-.

First Base – Carlos Delgado/Julio Franco – Delgado was considered a clubhouse cancer when he came over, mostly because he refused to stand during the Star Spangled Banner as a protest to the war in Iraq. Instead, he’s been a clubehouse leader, as well as the big bopper in the middle of the lineup the Mets haven’t had since a healthy Mike Piazza. His 22 home runs and 55 rbi might be starting the All Star game if not for that slouch, Albert Pujols. His defense has been more than adequate as well. Franco provides a steady back up (more on him later). Grade: B+ (Loses points for getting into too many prolonged slumps and for refusing to go the other way against the shift).

Second Base – Jose Valentin. When the immortal Kaz Matsui was traded away for the immortal Eli Marero, fans all over the world wondered who the heck was going to play second base. Was a follow up trade for Alfonso Sorianno in the works? Was Anderson Hernandez and his .146 batting average going to play every day? Were the Mets seriously considering moving Victor Diaz back to second base? No, Jose Valentin was the answer. And after struggling mightily to start the season, Valentin is .280, 8 hr 27 rbi in only 164 at bats. And while second base has always been his worst position, Valentin has made only four errors so far this season there. Most importantly, by filling the position as well as he has, it has allowed Omar Minaya to now focus his attention to filling other positions in a trade (pitcher and pitcher). Grade A.

Shortstop – Jose Reyes – Yes, he isn’t a prototypical leadoff man. But, he leads the league in stolen bases and runs scored, while playing a wonderfully steady defense. His speed makes him dangerous. If he gets on, he wreaks absolute havoc on the other team. And he has 30 walks already this year. Did he even have 30 career walks entering the season? He’s the second of 6 all-stars. Grade: A.

Third Base – David Wright – Ladies and Gentleman, the face of the 2006 Mets. .320, 18, 66. His biggest weaknesses have been striking out too much and his erratic play in the field earlier this season. He has settled down at third and has been the best clutch hitter on the team despite the strikeouts. At this point he’s a legitimate MVP candidate. Third of six all-stars. Grade: A.

Right Field – Xavier Nady/Endy Chavez/Lastings Millege – Nady has been ok, if oft injured. He also has been Mr. Anti-Clutch. He’s also a fair defender at best. Millege is not ready for the bigs yet, but flashed some serious potential. Chavez is a fantastic defender who needs more at bats. Grade: B-.

Center Field – Carlos Beltran – What a difference a year (and a healthy quad) makes. Last year at this time Beltran was an unmitigated disaster – another huge mistake by the Mets. This year, he’s starting in the all-star game, he’s got 24 homers and 65 rbi. He still plays too deep in center, but who cares. Another legitimate MVP candidate. Grade A+ (extra credit for bouncing back after last year and a very slow start this season as well).

Left Field – Cliff Floyd/Endy Chavz – Woe to Mets fans waiting to see a healthy, hitting Floys batting sixth and protecting Wright. Alas, he’s played in 54 games, only now trying to get out of a season-long slump. Grade: B-.

Bench – The bench has been a real advantage for the team this year. Led by the ageless Franco, they have been terrific. Franco is a great clubhouse guy, not to mention a perfect pinch hitter. Endy Chavez has been filling in for injured player sin right and left, and Chris Woodward handles infield duties. And let us not forget the immortal Eli Marero. Grade: A.

Pitching: I’m getting tired, so less to say about these guys. Starters first.

Tom Glavine – Since he realized that the plate has 2 sides, he’s been a stud and deserving his all-star bid. Grade: A.

Pedro – Has struggled mightily since the hip injury in May. I’m officially worried. Most debatable all-star selection of the six by far. He makes it simply because he’s Pedro. Yet despite it all, he’s 7-4 and could easily been 10-4 if not for some bullpen breakdowns. AND he leads the league in K’s despite never going more than 6 innings in a start. Grade: B+ (gets extra points for being Pedro – and if you don’t like it, tough).

Trachsel.Hernandex/Soler/Maine/etc – Omar Minaya has his work cut out for him before the trade deadline. If he doesn’t get a reliable third pitcher in here, the Mets are doomed. Grade: B- (only because Trachsel brings them up).

Bullpen:

Bradford/Oliver/Feliciano/Bell – The early inning guys have been tremendous for the Mets – keeping them in games and holding leads. Grade: A-

Aaron Heliman – something is off with him The Mets need to figure out what it is. Grade: C.

Duaner Sanchez – Best bullpen pickup pf the off season (you hear that Mr. Wagner?) Grade: A.

Closer- Billy Wagner – Big off season splash has been all wet so far. He still has juice on the fastball, but the blown saves are worrisome. Simply put, I don’t trust him to be an automatic save like same-song counterpart Mariano Rivera. And the Mets paid Wagner to be Rivera. Grade: B-.

Coaching - Say what you want, Willie Randolph and the crew have been pressing all the right buttons. They are even trying to pull back innings from Sanchez and Heilman. Manny Acta has been too aggressive at third base. If you know the name of your third base coach – it’s bad. Three runners thrown out at the plate in the last 2 weeks. Grade: A-.

Overall, the Mets run has been phenomenal. I hope that the end of the year review gives us similar grades.